Improving Gut Health Naturally
Back to All Articles

Improving Gut Health Naturally

January 25, 2022

Not sure which drink is right for you?

Get matched with products designed for your unique wellness goals.

Take the Quiz

Are you wondering how to improve gut health naturally? Check out this helpful guide on recognizing common signs of gut issues and how to improve them.

When is the last time you thought about the health of your gut? Was it the last time you came down with the stomach flu or felt bloated and uncomfortable after eating a meal? The truth is, most of us don't give our digestive systems a second thought until something goes wrong.

But we should ideally be thinking about our gut health and how to improve it daily. When we're conscientious about our digestive systems, we're more likely to make wise food choices. Eating nourishing, healthy foods will help nurture our "good" gut bacteria while making it difficult for harmful bacteria to grow inside us. We can also boost gut health by taking probiotics (such as the probiotics found in Herdigest) that help support a healthy microbiome.

If you're not sure whether your gut health is OK or if it needs a little work, keep reading. You'll find tips to help you analyze the current health of your gut microbiota and advice for how to improve gut health naturally.

Why Does Gut Health Matter?

It is very common these days to live with symptoms of an unhealthy gut. One of the biggest reasons for gut flora issues is the processed foods we tend to eat. Heavily processed foods and sugary foods are terrible for the gut microbiome because they feed the wrong types of bacteria.

When we have a gut bacteria imbalance, we're more likely to suffer from bloating, abdominal pain, food intolerance, and other gut issues. But there's a twist to the plot because an imbalanced gut microbiome doesn't just cause digestive issues. It can also impact our overall health.

According to research and studies, gut bacteria play an important role in our health by aiding in digestion and absorption of nutrients, synthesizing vitamin K, and promoting enteric nerve function. There is also a clear link between gut flora and the brain. The enteric nervous system is sometimes called the body's "second brain." It's a system of nerve cells that line the digestive tract from the esophagus all the way down to the rectum.

The enteric nervous system is responsible for controlling digestion, aiding with nutrient absorption, and helping the body eliminate waste products. Surprisingly, scientists have discovered that the enteric nervous system communicates with the brain and can even control mood changes.

For example, people with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, or other problems with the digestive tract may be more prone to depression and anxiety triggered by the enteric nervous system. This finding could explain why people with IBS and other issues associated with poor gut health experience mood disorders at a higher rate than people with a healthy gut.

Even more alarming than the gut health/mood disorder link is the fact that gut bacteria and heart health are also closely connected. People with poor digestive health are at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. For those of us with a family history of heart problems, it's especially important to make sure our gut microbes are properly balanced and not overrun with bad bacteria.

How Does a Healthy Gut Function?

A healthy gut is a beautiful thing. It contains friendly bacteria and immune cells that work hard to keep harmful bacteria, viruses, and other unwanted intruders at bay. A healthy gut also communicates efficiently with the brain through hormones and nerves to help maintain a general sense of well-being and good energy.

Optimal gut health is good for reducing inflammation in the digestive tract and throughout the body. It also helps boost the immune system. If you have good gut health, you're less likely to experience discomfort after eating food. You're also more likely to be "regular" in your bowel habits.

People who have a healthy gut flora are also more likely to feel healthy and energetic most of the time. This is because gut health helps determine overall health and wellness.

What Are the Effects of Gut Inflammation?

Gut inflammation can happen to the best of us. It's pretty uncomfortable and can lead to gut dysbiosis (which is a fancy term for an imbalance of microbes in our gut). Here are some common signs of an unhealthy gut:

  • Frequent stomach disturbances (such as diarrhea, bloating, gas, and heartburn)
  • Unexplained weight changes (both unintentional weight loss and weight gain can be a sign of gut inflammation)
  • Food intolerances
  • Chronic lethargy or fatigue
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Acne and other skin problems
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Sore and achy joints
  • Bloated belly
  • Thyroid problems
  • Water retention

These are all telltale signs that our gut microbiome is suffering. Fortunately, we can focus on gut healing and restoration of good bacteria by committing to healthy eating habits and by taking natural probiotics when necessary.

If we don't pay attention to our gut's distress signals, we could end up experiencing a variety of unpleasant ailments. Chronic intestinal inflammation is known to contribute to chronic disease. Here are 13 potential consequences of living with intestinal inflammation for too long:

  1. Arthritis
  2. Autoimmune diseases
  3. GI disorders such as IBS and IBD
  4. Diverticulitis (irritation of the intestine walls)
  5. Colorectal cancer
  6. Allergies
  7. Cardiovascular disease
  8. Neurodegenerative disease (such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease)
  9. Anxiety and depression
  10. Osteoporosis
  11. Neurodevelopmental disorders (such as autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder)
  12. Metabolic syndrome and obesity
  13. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

None of those sound very fun. Of course, there is no guarantee that you'll develop any of these conditions if you have insufficient probiotic bacteria in your gut. But your risk of experiencing these issues is higher when you have chronic gut inflammation and bacteria imbalance.

What Causes an Inflamed Gut?

There are many potential causes of gut inflammation. Here are some of the most common:

  • Ultra-processed foods: These types of foods are very popular and include everything from crackers to cookies with loads of added sugar. Processed foods are often full of food additives such as artificial sweeteners, carrageenan, polysorbate-80, and countless other additives that can increase intestinal permeability. What this means for you is that consuming ultra-processed foods can eventually lead to a condition called leaky gut. Yes, it's just as unpleasant as it sounds and is marked by excess gut inflammation.

  • Stress: Stress is often called the silent killer (and for good reason). Stress is very harmful to physical and mental health. It can also contribute to gut inflammation and make the digestive tract an inhospitable place for good bacteria. A little bit of stress here and there probably won't ruin your gut microbiome, but watch out for chronic stress and its tendency to kill off good microbes.

  • Gut infections: Some fungal, parasitic, bacterial, and viral gut infections can alter the gut microbiota composition in unwanted ways. One example of this is the influenza A virus, which can increase the body's susceptibility to Salmonella pathogens (which can, in turn, wreak havoc on your digestive system). Food poisoning can also trigger massive gut inflammation and can lead to irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Overtraining or sedentary lifestyles: Though they're on opposite ends of the activity spectrum, overtraining and sedentary lifestyles can both lead to gut inflammation. Moderate exercise is ideal because it can boost the beneficial bacteria in the gut and inhibit inflammation. Overtraining, on the other hand, increases gut inflammation. Sedentary lifestyles are also associated with increased gut inflammation. Try to keep your activity level somewhere in the middle and you'll be in good shape.

  • Industrial seed oils: Industrial sed oils such as those extracted from cottonseed, soybeans, corn, safflower seeds, and rapeseed can induce gut inflammation. This is because they have a high omega-6 fatty acid content. While omega-3 fatty acids are good for the body and can lower inflammation, the same is not true of their omega-6 counterparts. Omega-6 fatty acids can easily become damaged by heat, which means they become inflammatory when they're processed and cooked.

  • Antibiotics: They can be literal lifesavers, but antibiotics don't come without their drawbacks. These days, it's argued that antibiotics are prescribed too frequently and are damaging peoples' gut flora. Antibiotics work by killing harmful bacteria that cause illnesses. Unfortunately, antibiotics also kill good bacteria. If you take them too frequently, you could end up with gut inflammation and heavily imbalanced gut bacteria.

  • Insufficient sleep: Have you ever noticed how your stomach seems to be a little more sensitive when you've gotten less sleep than your body needs? This is because sleep deprivation changes the gut microbiota and encourages the growth of pro-inflammatory species of bacteria. Just two nights of insufficient sleep can increase gut inflammation and discomfort.

  • Environmental toxins: Toxins are all around us, and there's no way we can escape them. Environmental toxins include things like glyphosate from popular herbicides, triclosan from some personal care products and hand sanitizers, bisphenol A (also known as BPA), and alternative plasticizers. These toxins can all impact our immune system health and can cause inflammation in our gut.

That's a pretty hefty list of potential gut inflammation triggers. Some of these things can be avoided by eating healthy foods and staying away from products with excess sugar and other unnecessary additives.

Other things (such as environmental toxins and gut infections) may not be avoidable. The good news is that you can work to heal your gut and boost healthy bacteria by eating more probiotic foods and taking a probiotic supplement. Let's talk about how to improve your gut health naturally using these methods and others.

How Can I Improve My Gut Health Naturally?

The first step to improving gut health is recognizing when you have a problem. It looks like you've already taken that step, so congratulations! Improving gut health may seem like a monumental task, but it's not too difficult when you break it down into actionable steps. Here are a few suggestions for boosting desirable microbes in your gut and getting rid of unwanted bacterium types.

Step 1: Change Your Diet

The most important thing you can do to improve gut health naturally is to analyze your diet and get rid of highly processed foods. Aim to eat whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible. This will require you to spend more time shopping on the outskirts of the grocery store (where the produce and meat departments are usually located) and spend less time in the middle of the grocery store (where most highly processed foods are located).

It's also smart to add fermented foods to your daily diet. These foods contain beneficial bacteria that can help restore proper gut balance. Some good fermented foods include:

  • Plain yogurt
  • Kombucha (with no sugar added)
  • Miso (the refrigerated type)
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles (the kind made with salt instead of vinegar)
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Tempeh
  • Aged cheeses with live cultures
  • Other probiotic drinks with no added sugar

Some of these foods can be hard on your stomach if you aren't used to them and if you don't have sufficient healthy bacteria to break them down properly. For this reason, it's best to start with a small amount (such as a teaspoon of sauerkraut with your dinner). Over time you can work your way up to larger amounts of fermented foods that will help keep your gut microbiome healthy and diverse.

Step 2: Drink More Water

Did you know as many as 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated? You could easily be one of them. Every cell in your body requires water to function optimally, but your digestive system is particularly reliant on sufficient water to digest food properly. Sufficient water is also required for keeping the microbes in your gut properly balanced.

There are so many different recommendations for how much water you should drink based on your height, weight, and even your gender. To avoid confusion, a good rule of thumb is to drink enough water that your urine runs clear and doesn't have a pungent smell.

Step 3: Get Enough Sleep at Night

Your gut needs quality sleep to stay healthy. Chronic lack of sleep can impact your gut health and your overall health negatively. If you're trying to restore your gut health, aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every single night.

Step 4: Reduce Your Stress Levels

Once you get your eating, drinking, and sleeping habits under control, it's time to reduce your stress levels. Chronic stress is terrible for your gut health as well as your overall health. There are several different ways you can reduce your stress levels. Try going for a relaxing walk every day, spending more time with people you love, and getting regular massages. Meditation is also a great way to minimize stress in your life.

What Foods Are Good for Your Gut?

There are a lot of foods that are good for the gut. They include:

  • Blueberries and other berries
  • Lentils
  • Chicory root
  • Certain nuts (such as pistachios and almonds)
  • Kale and other leafy greens
  • Seaweed
  • Onions
  • Oats
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Fish liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Tuna

The above list is not all-inclusive, but it gives you a good idea of the types of foods you should eat to heal your gut. If you take a look at the above list, you'll notice it doesn't contain any processed or sugary foods. Instead, it's full of natural, whole foods that Mother Earth prepared for our benefit.

It's also important to eat prebiotic foods for optimal gut health. Prebiotics are foods that contain dietary fiber. The healthy bacteria in your gut feed off dietary fiber, so they need prebiotics to thrive. Many of the foods listed above are also considered prebiotics due to their dietary fiber content. Eat them regularly to give the healthy bacteria in your gut a nice snack.

Herbs for Gut Health

There are different herbs that can support a healthy digestive system. Here are some of the most effective types of herbs for gut health:

  • Licorice root
  • Slippery elm
  • Triphala

Licorice root coats the gut's membrane lining and acts as a protective barrier. Slippery elm helps heal the gut's mucous membranes and improve bowel movements. Finally, Triphala is one of the best herbs to help heal leaky gut. It's an herbal blend of haritaki, amla, and bibhitaki.

What Do Probiotics Do for Your Gut?

We've talked a lot about how important probiotics are for your gut, but we haven't discussed why they're important. What exactly do they do for your gut? Their main job is to keep your body and gut balanced. When bad bacteria enter your body and multiply, they make you sick and harm your body's balance.

Probiotics can help your immune system fight off bad bacteria. They also contribute to your sense of well-being by boosting your gut health, which in turn boosts your mental health. Probiotics can also reduce certain conditions related to gut inflammation, including allergies, eczema, digestive disorders, and weight gain. In short, probiotics work to improve the health of your whole body by balancing the bacteria in your gut.

How Can Herdigest Help Improve My Gut Health?

Herdigest is a delicious and effective probiotic powder that contains both probiotics and prebiotics in each easy-to-use packet. Take it regularly to promote healthy gut bacteria and reduce yeast, parasites, and unwanted gut bacteria.

Want to learn more about how you can improve your gut health and overall health? You can find a wealth of information at Mixhers resources.

Not sure which drink is right for you?

Get matched with products designed for your unique wellness goals.

Take the Quiz

Hormone support for every stage of womanhood.

From your first period to your first hot flash, nourish your journey.

View All Products

We see you are located in Canada.

Please see our Canadian collection.